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Greening Your Pets

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The ReGeneration is on the move! To make it easier for customers, Dell employees and stakeholders to find and participate in our conversations about the environment, we’re moving the best of our ReGeneration.org blog over here to Direct2Dell.  You’ll find the same great posts about what’s news in “green” business and technology, along with the green tips so many of you tell us you love. Join the conversation!

My friend and hero, Kittyman.Pets have provided mankind undying devotion and companionship and assistance since the beginning of civilization.  There is no doubt that we are much happier and healthier for having embarked on this mutually beneficial relationship with them.  For those of us living in the cramped and paved world of the modern city, our pets are often the only glimpses into the inner workings of the natural world we get.

So having established that an animal companion is a natural part of our human existence, it may seem  contradictory to assert that there are quite a few decidedly ungreen aspects of pet ownership.  Fido and Fluffy’s forefather’s decided eons ago to forgo their animal cohorts and hitch their fates to our wagon and found the accommodations and kibbles we provided much to their liking.  As a result, they’ve reproduced in numbers well beyond their wild cousins, and as with humans, this booming population is not without its environmental consequences.  I’ll discuss a few of those consequences in this blog post as well as offer a few easy practices you can employ to help mitigate the environmental effects of your friend’s presence on the planet.
First and foremost, adopt your pet from a shelter.  Here are a few numbers for you: Everyday 70,000 puppies and kittens are born in the United States alone, and every year, 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters throughout the U.S.  As these numbers demonstrate, there are more dogs and cats in the United States alone than there are loving homes willing to take them in.  Pets in shelters are animals that are already here waiting for a home, and could be put to death if they aren’t adopted.  The environmental problems associated with animal overpopulation are the same as they are with people.  These animals need resources to survive, and if they are homeless, they are not getting adequate health care and could be contributing to the spread of diseases.  They also need people to clean up after them, which leads me to my next point… 

Sydney As I write this, my hometown of Austin is awash with media reports of dog *** finding its way into our watershed – nearly 500,000 pounds of it at last count!  A quick Google search shows that this problem is endemic throughout the United States.  Well-meaning folks are taking their dogs to local lakes, creeks and swimming holes for some much-needed exercise and are forgetting to clean up after them.  The same goes for animal waste in your own lawn.  As the old saying goes, it all runs downhill, and your water supply is often the end of the line.  The solution to this is simple: bag it (in a biodegradable baggie, of course), seal it and deposit it in the trash.  You may also compost it, but there are a few things to consider before doing so.  This site explains the purpose, process and problems that go with composting dog manure.  Study it carefully if you plan to go this route, as dog waste that is improperly composed may also pose a health risk and will do little to fertilize your beloved vegetable garden.     

ARRRRGH! The last way to green your pet I’ll discuss is about the bane of many a pet owner’s existence: FLEAS.  Just typing that word makes my shins itch.  There’s no getting around them.  No matter what you use to control the flea population, there will always be at least a few left making your pet’s life a little more difficult.  It should come as no surprise that many of the flea treatments available today contain chemicals that are not meant to be consumed by your pet.  Even if they are just applied to the skin, your pet is still going to groom itself and one way or another, they are going to ingest it.  This goes for flea collars, sprays, shampoos and those topical creams you apply to the small of their backs.  There are however more natural ways to control the flea population around your home and on your pet that don’t employ harsh chemicals to get the job done.  There are plenty of web sites abound that explore the more natural products and home remedies meant to keep the fleas at bay, many of which I’d never heard of.  I’ve used diatomaceous earth, cedar bedding, garlic, brewer’s yeast and flaxseed oil to great effect in the past, but there are literally hundreds of natural ways to control fleas that you can chose from depending on what’s easier for you.  PETA recommends spraying your pet with a lemon water concoction that I’ve heard works very well (I assume this treatment wouldn’t be for cats!).  If anyone has tried this, let me know how it works in the comments section below.  I’m always on the  lookout for better ways to keep my friends flea-free.

As with any tips post, this is an incomplete list of ways to green your pet.  I know I’ve missed more than a few environmental issues and remedies related to owning a pet, and I’m sure there are even more I’ve never heard of.  So what’s not in the post that should be?  Let me know in the comments section.  We (and our animal friends) are looking forward to hearing from you.

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